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Cold cars lead to record number of AAA calls

Tuesday - 1/7/2014, 4:48pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Even cars wish they could stay under the covers in this weather.

Car trouble - particularly involving batteries - has resulted in tens of thousands of calls for service this week.

"We're seeing an unprecedented number of calls," says John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

On Monday, AAA Mid-Atlantic got more than 19,000 calls - a one-day record. At the peak early Tuesday afternoon, the car club was averaging 1,000 calls per hour - the highest rate the Mid-Atlantic region has ever handled.

"We have called in reserves, and we have some contractors that we're calling in because of the huge call volume," he says.

Between Friday and Sunday, the auto club received more than 30,000 calls.

More than a third of total service calls have been related to problems with the vehicle battery.

"At zero degrees, your battery has lost 65 percent of its cranking power, or strength," Townsend says. "At 32 degrees, it loses about 35 percent of its power."

His tip for preparing car batteries for the morning cold: Turn on the car and run it for about 10 minutes before going to bed.

James Riswick, automotive editor for edmunds.com, agrees that the battery is the big weak point, "in winter or any other time of year."

Riswick also emphasizes the importance of checking the level of antifreeze, and says you should inflate the tires a little extra to make up for the contraction that can happen in cold weather.

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